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Tucker & Putin: a Russian Catholic View

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Author’s note and disclaimer: I wish a Russian soldier had never set foot on Ukrainian soil against his neighbour.

This passage is not part of the article, but it feels necessary to add, asI am aware that any words of a Russian author about current events may be met with distrust as an attempt to serve his own elites – symbolic and political, consciously or unconsciously.

Yes, we all have our biases, and, regardless of what we might think of it, in each of our countries there are words that a citizen must not utter under pain of criminal prosecution. Some of these words are four-letter, while others have as many letters as ‘war.’ However, I shall allow myself to be frank, hoping that my reader will be as simple as a dove to use what is useful, and wise as a snake to understand lines that take some proficiency in Aesopian to make sense of.

I shall hereby assure my reader that
1. I wish Ukrainians and Russians could stop killing each other;
2. I wish they had never started killing each other to begin with;

3. I understand that behind the current events there are a number of bad and unfortunate decisions – political and moral, – which I wish had not have to be made;
4. I understand and respect a people’s right to self-defense and self-determination;
5. During the Second World War, my great-grandmother would inactivate Nazi incendiary bombs on the roofs of Kiev when she was only 15 years old. She was a Soviet local. I am a post-Soviet Russian.
6. My heart is still full of grief as I have wept for months. While one says in English: ‘it’s no use crying over spilled milk,’ here in Russia we say: ‘no tears can solve a calamity.’ And yes, sometimes words actually can hurt you: their connection with ‘sticks and stones’ has been underestimated.
7. Having said that, I can’t but see that everything that is happening right now has far-reaching spiritual consequences for millions of my fellow brothers. As a future Catholic priest and a Christian, neither can I stay silent about them, despite the fear of speaking up.

8. I shall do so by commenting on the recent interview of Vladimir Putin with Tucker Carlson  because this task does not extend the limits of my sense of reason, competence and psychological capacity, and thus my responsibility before the Almighty Lord.

Please, pray for me and for Russia, as Our Lady of Fatima is still asking to.

And have a good time reading.

There are two laws that can protect us from being torn apart by the dogs of war barking from each side, who are breeding both in the battle fields and rear discussions all over the world nowadays. These laws are subordinate one to the other, but they have the same serial number in the corresponding codes.

The 3rd amendment to the US Constitution says:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Looking at this law spiritually rather than merely from the legal perspective, it means that, even in the times of war, there remain things more immediately important than military success. It is the unalienable rights of freedom and property – a more specific representation of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ the American founding fathers laid down in the Declaration of Independence. It also implies that the Law itself is not suspended even when at war.

An older law given to us by Nature’s Creator says:

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

In the age when every commercial company down to the local barbershop claims to have a mission comparable in scope to the mission of a Church, the same magnitude anomaly affects our concept of a competition, a rivalry, a war. In our mass society, where the old institutions are getting weaker, the wave from a blow of any strength inevitably turns into a tsunami, tearing apart the shell of a social body that has been robbed of its skeleton. A society that is devoid of proper notions about good and evil, God and the devil, begins to think flatly and tumbler-wise: everything We do is good, and everyone who in any way and to any degree is against Us is nothing less than evil in flesh.

This is how it works both in my country and in the West. The small difference is that our Russian public speakers still use the name of Satan to denote evil (both supporters[1] and critics[2] of Putin and his ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine do it), while in the West such metaphysical terms seem to have been largely abandoned, which does in practice render nobody else but Hitler to the vacant position of the ultimate bad guy (overloading his notorious but limited figure with too much meaning, which, in a way, does not let him die). This idol of Hitler is something we have in common on both sides of the iron curtain.

Who is that Hitler now? Putin, Trump, Zelensky… The names vary according to the side, but the propagandistic methods are shared like those Chinese Communists’ techniques to handle the COVID crisis that were picked up by Western supposedly democratic leaders. Who is right? Russia or Ukraine, or is it Russia against the West? Regardless of whether a war is actually defensive or aggressive, morally justified or unacceptable at the time of its outbreak, and even less depending on whether we can find the ultimate answer to all these questions, the leaders of our public opinion mutually turn it into a ‘Holy War of Good vs Evil.’ A war in which there is no space for dialogue, compromise or sympathy. No terms for no negotiations. It happens each time it is important to them. And this is a pure case of idolatry, which defiles all the elements of truth that each side of the conflict might initially have, while even the most innocent people are fostered to bring up the worst feelings towards their neighbours, though they are, yes – enemies at war. But they should be prayed for. And they should be friends in peace.

We the Catholics know that it is a trap, ‘for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’ (Ephesians 6:12). A Catholic approach is to see the reality and cast evil spirits out of our fellow brothers, not damn them to hell. For ‘whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire’ (Matthew 5:22).

No fire indeed is worse than that of hell. As no earthly kingdom is a homeland enough for a human soul to put itself on its altar without reserve, while proper Patriotism and self-defence of a nation, when in their proper place in the hierarchy of values, are good. Approximate, non-absolute, sometimes ambivalent and not so clear in terms of what to do – but good. On the contrary, bad is any war for a human condition, although its causes are often felt relative, also ambivalent and not so clear in the same terms, as shown by history. The ultimate goal is thus to lead one’s own soul and those of one’s brethren from the danger of hell to the Kingdom of God in the historical circumstances and cultures that fall to us by lot.

It is from this perspective I would like to comment on the recent interview of Vladimir Putin, being a Russian Catholic seminarian and a graduate philologist keen on political discourse analysis while deliberately and pronouncedly not a political commentator.

When Tucker Carlson went to Moscow for an interview with President Vladimir Putin, Western legacy media went mad[3] – as if the journalist was not executing his profession, but somehow failed as a moral person, betrayed goodness and ran over to the camp of hell. It is being discussed as if Tucker Carlson had spoken and listened to the devil instead of fighting that unholy one and praying to the Lord in his hour of temptation, which was actually about two hours of a talk.

Being in deep grief due to all the deaths that have been taking place in the mayhem, I still, according to the Catholic Tradition, see the first three Commandments superior to even ‘thou shalt do no murder, although this contest is a more complex reality. Only Satan and his angels are to be completely cut off and ignored, for ‘he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ (John 8:44). Neither Putin, nor Biden, nor Zelensky are, though. Otherwise, we elevate their corresponding adversaries and antagonists – such as our own country, ethnicity or political affiliation – to divine status, while ourselves – to the communicants of those deities. And woe to us then, for we who a priori cancel fellow people shall be cancelled in the end by the One who prayed for His murderers:

‘Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.’ (Psalms 16:4)

Having said that, here are my thoughts on the interview – those on what was said and those on what was left silent – as much as it affects our mission as the Catholics in Russia and in the world.

What was it? And why didn’t Tucker Carlson ask tough questions?

According to The Guardian, Vladimir Putin himself ‘mocked the former Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson for a “lack of sharp questions” during their interview at the Kremlin last week.’[4] So did the Western legacy media. I think it is the pot calling the kettle black, and that is why.

Anyone familiar with the very format of this level of political interviews in Russia understands that all the questions were most likely agreed upon at the preliminary or post-production stage, and therefore it makes no sense to blame Tucker Carlson for not asking Putin tough questions. Having said a word in defence of Carlson as a professional, we shall perceive this interview as a monologue, which is what it looked like quite formally.

As a professional, I believe that Putin’s words were designed to simply persuade the Anglo-American community that his version of the Ukrainian crisis’ nature and history is right or at least reasonable, and also that he is open to negotiations. That is why the themes and rhetoric he used in the interview differed from those Putin and his close associates prefer to speculate on in domestic use. Not a word of ‘traditional values’ superiority over the ‘degenerate West,’ transgenderism and sexual ethics in general was uttered by the Russian President in order not to create another obstacle to the mutual understanding he tried to establish. If Tucker Carlson had indeed prepared such questions – and as a professional he must have – those were probably rejected by the respondent’s office. Vladimir Putin tried to keep it historical, political, rational and moral in the most neutral interpersonal sense of the word. Like a modern Neoconservative or a classic Liberal, he hates Hitler and protects innocent people. He talks about Hitler and World War II very much throughout this interview, saying that the current state of Ukraine has had a problem regarding Nazism – an idol of absolute evil, which, according to Mr. President of Russia, eventually led to this country taking action.

Some people may be more inclined to accept his version than others, but one thing is for sure: by trying to set a lens for observing his Ukrainian deeds, Putin also created a mirror in which any Anglo-American can behold his or her own history and politics. Perhaps with God’s help, by looking into this mirror, some ways of reconciliation and correction of all the evil that has already affected our world will be revealed to our sight.

Thesis 1:  Identity is a Story and comes from History – as relative as relevant.

More than one third of the whole interview was an introduction to Russian history from a specific perspective. Putin begins with the calling of the Varangians to rule over Novgorod, then he talks about the formation of two centres of the Russian realm in Novgorod (North-West) and Kiev (South), then mentions the unfortunate though logical feudal fragmentation of the land, which led to the Russian ‘confederacy’ being captured by the Mongol Empire. It was a great catastrophe of the late Middle Ages, at the end of which two competing centres for the Russian people’s unification emerged. Here comes the part that may be the most interesting for us as Catholics:

‘The southern part of Russian lands, including Kiev, began to gradually gravitate towards another magnet, the center that was emerging in Europe. This was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and it was even called the Lithuanian Russian Duchy because Russians were a significant part of this population. They spoke the old Russian language and were Orthodox. But then there was a unification, the union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland. A few years later, another union was signed, but this time already in the religious sphere, some of the Orthodox priests became subordinate to the Pope. Thus these lands became part of the Polish-Lithuanian state.’[5]

Putin continues that living in a Polish state changed the mentality of some Russian people (better to say the people of Rus’ spread more to the West), which gradually led to the introduction of a separate identity of the Ukrainian people – a new national entity that happened to become anti-Russian in its political philosophy and practice.

There are three facts and three questions for us:

Fact one. Practically all the historical parts of Putin’s speech reflect the Russian traditional view of the history of the region and is arguably solid, although one may criticise the details and disagree on the assessment of this or that historical actor.

Fact two. Being rooted in the history of a country, as well as one’s family, gives a person a stable identity that influences that person’s views and actions while also making him or her sound solid compared to those people who are only rooted in today. Anyone who wants to change this identity or come up with an alternative must have a story of the same strength and sophistication.

Fact three. Neither a Catholic, nor a merely political peace-making mission can afford ignoring the national story of a country expressed by its current leader unless it seriously considers a long-term military occupation and re-education of the people, which I don’t happen to support regardless of the country and many hopefully would find extravagant.

The pastoral questions are:

1) Is Putin’s view on history essentially anti-Catholic?

2) Should a Russian renounce the entirety of this myth (or a part of it) to be a Catholic?

3) Is the war between Russia and the West, Russia and Ukraine inevitable according to this myth?

I shall argue that a general answer to all these questions, even based solely on Putin’s interview, is ‘not necessarily.’

Thesis 2: The Russians do not have to renounce their national myth to be Catholic, nor to unconditionally support the state of Ukraine in the conflict

Ideologically, Putin agreed that, despite Russians and Ukrainians being essentially one people, the mere existence of the separate political state of Ukraine is not an existential threat to Russia, as he understands it. Although appetite comes with eating, it is possible to imagine and develop such a configuration of the international relations and security system in which it would not only be moral, but also profitable to keep one’s word. But I would not like to go deeper into politics, being more interested in the following pastoral question:

Can a Russian Catholic not support Ukraine and still be Catholic?

Personally, I do not have any binary opinion whether any current separate state or immanent political entity should exist or not on a moral and metaphysical basis, for such a statement would by necessity interfere with the realm of religion. There are factual states and laws to obey, though. And also the people I do belong or am related to, those I wish the best for – it is something that constitutes Patriotism as a love for the country and for the  neighbours – nuclear and extended. As far as I know, neither did Blessed Leonid Fedorov enter the discussion in his time, being solely interested in Catholicism being spread among his beloved compatriots, while being fully aware of the Russian-Ukrainian tension at the moment. But as a patriot myself I do understand that many people would find the existence of an independent Ukraine in this or that configuration of its borders extremely valuable, as many would have found in the past. A considerable part among them were and are Catholics. However, it is still possible to be a Russian Catholic of the Byzantine rite and think otherwise. Here is an example.

Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Volkonsky (1866-1934) was a Russian military diplomat, publicist and a Catholic priest of the Byzantine rite ordained in 1930 who belonged to the Russian Apostolate.

Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Volkonsky (1866-1934), Russian Catholic priest

Fr. Volkonsky wrote one of the most significant Catholic apologetic works in the Russian language – ‘Catholicism and the sacred tradition of the East’ (Russian – ‘Католичество и священное предание Востока’). This book helped many Russian people to become Catholics, myself included.

However, some other works also came from his pen. His academic research ‘Historical Truth and Ukrainophile Propaganda’ was initially published in 1920. But in 1998, it was included in the recent collection titled ‘Ukrainian Separatism in Russia: The Ideology of National Schism.’ This work even got re-published in 2015, which makes a Russian Catholic priest miraculously popular with Russian (mostly Orthodox) Conservatives and Nationalists. This Catholic prince-cleric also wrote a treaty under the title ‘The Name of Rus’ in the Pre-Mongol Era’ in 1929 and yet another one titled ‘What is the main danger?’, as well as ‘A Little-Russian and A Ukrainian’ of the same year. He would also publish some other authors’ works of likewise attitude. In particular, it was in Berlin 1925 when the prince published ‘Ukrainian Movement’ – the work of a Russian emigrant historian and publicist Andrey Storozhenko.[6] This was an anti-Ukrainian work that Putin would approve of. Fr. Volkonsky was a Russian imperial nobleman, which did not prevent him from becoming a Catholic, nor did his rejection of the idea that Ukrainians were a separate nation. Why? Because the existence of any separate nation is not a Catholic dogma.

But Putin mentioned the ‘Unia’ –
does that mean that Eastern Catholicism is fundamentally banned in Russia?

Due to all the historical reasons that Putin outlined in his lecture for Tucker Carlson, the Russian state has always had a negative attitude towards ‘Western Russian’ and then Ukrainian and Belorussian Uniates. It was mainly for political reasons that did have their rationale: since all human phenomena are complex, religious affiliation with the Uniate Churches of the region naturally goes hand in hand with political resentment against Moscow. Much can be said about the human tragedies and true Catholic martyrdom as horrorible fruits of this logic’s absolute implementation in our history. As also in yours. After all, not every Irish Catholic was a foe of the British Crown, and neither was St. Thomas More a traitor to his king Henry VIII. It seems, though, that all empires share the same logic regarding the role of religion since that of Rome.

Continuing the English metaphor, Russian Catholics are more comparable to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales – the good fruit of the Anglo-Catholic intellectual movement and the courage of Cardinal Newman – than to the Irish Catholic diaspora in Albion. While Chesterton ‘argued that the Irish were a distinct people from the English and deserved their autonomy, to be able to rule their own country in their own way, to protect their traditions and their religion,[7] a question arises: has it ever been a general requirement to think so? If there had been such a moral-political commandment akin to a religious dogma, then notorious Henry VIII would have been justified to execute St. Thomas More and Bishop Fisher as a king of England.

Yet again, it did not create a pro-English counter-dogma for the poor people of Ireland. Neither does it suggest one for the people of Ukraine these days.  It is very difficult for all of us to admit at the same time first, that Nations do have the right of self-defence as much as the obligation to use it wisely; second, that soldiers from all sides have their sworn duties; third, that these first two factors can create an equal moral obligation justified before Almighty God. It is extremely difficult precisely because the fallen human mind rebels against any mystery, even that of lawlessness: like the Original Sin itself, war is a combination of guilt and tragedy that we tend to see clearly separated in space and time like oil and water in a bottle, while indeed it is more like dirt and blood on a battle field. And this is how the self-serving idolatry of nations comes into being. This danger is as present in America as it is in Russia or Ukraine.

Is Putin an Imperialist or a National State Leader, and can a Catholic be either?

Fr. Alexandr Volkonsky – an anti-Ukraine thinker of the 20th century and a Catholic missionary we discussed above – was an imperial nobleman. An empire is something that by definition presupposes ethnic diversity and super-ethnic structures. But any such empire is grown on the basis of one culture, which absorbs other elements for a better integration, but still synthesises them in its own way and promotes itself among the integrated peoples. Be it the Mongols, the English, the Russians who ever take this role. That feature creates an inevitable tension between the two imperatives – something for an Emperor and all his ministers to deal with. Such was the Empire of Romans Putin mentioned, as it looks like, in order to simply hint at the upcoming breakdown of American hegemony:

‘It seems that there has never been anything like the Roman Empire in the history of mankind. Nevertheless, the potential of the barbarians gradually grew, as did their population. In general, the barbarians were getting stronger and begun to develop economically, as we would say today. This eventually led to the collapse of the Roman Empire and the regime imposed by the Romans.’

In this metaphor, Vladimir Putin reveals himself as a European National leader. He implicitly takes the role of the barbarian leader with a growing economy and population – a tribal chief who will soon bring down the new Roman Empire. Although not too soon on the scale of a human life, of course. It reveals him as a national leader, as does the following words about the Russian population of Donbas and his moral choice to use lethal force for their protection:

‘It is very easy [to kill] when it comes to protecting oneself and one’s family, one’s homeland. We won’t attack anyone. When did the developments in Ukraine start? Since the coup d’etat and the hostilities in Donbas began. That’s when they started. And we were protecting our people, ourselves, our homeland and our future.’

At the same time, the very historical introduction provided by the Russian President does contain an imperial motif:

‘When Russia expanded, then absorbed other nations who profess Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism, Russia has always been very loyal to those people who profess other religions. This is our strength. This is absolutely clear. And the fact is that […] main values are very similar. Not to say the same in all the world religions I have just mentioned, and which are the traditional religions of the Russian Federation. By the way, Russian authorities were always very careful about the culture and religion of those people who came into the Russian Empire. This, in my opinion, forms the basis of both security and stability of the Russian statehood. All the peoples inhabiting Russia basically consider it their motherhood (…). And people who profess different religions in Russia consider Russia their motherland. They have no other motherland. We are together. This is one big family and our traditional values are very similar.’

It is notable that the ‘imperial’ narrative does not include Ukraine despite what Putin’s Ukrainian critics will often say, also those among the Ukrainian Greek Catholics. This country is not mentioned as ‘joined’ because its history belongs – according to Vladimir Putin’s worldview – to the very genesis of the people that built the empire: the Russians. Historically speaking, it is very true, for even when we started to considerably diverge, it was the common culture, personal relations and even political elites with Ukrainian blood that cemented the common political ground for ages, including the Soviet and part of the post-Soviet period. After all, it was the Cossacks who discovered and acquired Siberia for Russia. Were they Russian, Ukrainian? Their company seems to have been rather diverse, while the borderlines, vague…

For Putin and the elites who support and produce this discourse together with a large part of the Russian population, Ukraine is not just a rebellious colony. It is like an old motherland compared to the homeland for the American mind, although stronger emotionally. It does not mean that war and complete political reunification of Ukraine with Russia is inevitable by definition. On the contrary, it makes any gram of blood spilt even more appalling and prices, high. But this fact is something one should keep in mind when trying to come up with a solution.

Is there a red line or a red flag for a Catholic?

Neither the logic of Nation States nor that of Empires contradict the Catholic Faith in their essence, although the latter, having a misfortunate fate, has been largely neglected in international popular culture due to the highly influential role of the American national myth in the global discourse – a myth that began with the struggle for independence against the imperial tyrant… In fact, the key characteristic feature of an empire is not tyranny, while the latter can easily flourish in a completely monoethnic national state, regardless of the nominal form of its government – be it a Monarchy or a Republic. At the heart of the empire lies a certain vision of Good that creates a civilisation around itself and spreads outward to other peoples in a complex balance game of national egoism and the common profit. It can be reached through a war, a police operation, but also by soft powers and agreements – something more fashionable nowadays. Even the United States, born as an anti-kingdom – a Republic – has been following the imperial path by spreading its military power and ideals all over the world. Even the Monroe Doctrine that opposed the European interferences in the Western hemisphere by definition made an imperial claim, not to mention the role America has played in supporting Liberal democracies in other parts of the planet. And it is all right until some redlines are crossed.

To cross one is

  • to break up this balance of interests;
  • to start an unjust war as it is described in the Catholic teaching and theology distinct from a just war, which is defensive, inevitable, winnable…;
  • to lie personally and make lies the fundamental principle of the whole society.

The last sin, by the way, seems to be a straight path to tyranny, while all the three rules apply for a national state and to all forms of government likewise. It does not matter who lies to his society and the whole candid world about his true intentions while starting a war – a president or an emperor. Lies always poison the discourse and disorient everybody involved.

Thesis 3: A War for Independence, a Civil War, a Revolution, an Invention, a Treason – they end

In the interview, Putin told another story that can understandably offend many people in Ukraine and diaspora who may find it extremely cynical:

‘The relations between the two peoples will be rebuilt anyway. It will take a lot of time, but they will heal. I’ll give you very unusual examples. There is a combat encounter on the battlefield. Here is a specific example. Ukrainian soldiers get encircled. This is an example from real life. Our soldiers were shouting to them. There is no chance. Surrender yourselves. Come out and you will be alive. Suddenly the Ukrainian soldiers were screaming from there in Russian. Perfect Russian. Saying Russians do not surrender. And all of them perished. They still identify themselves as Russian. What is happening is, to a certain extent, an element of a civil war. Everyone in the West thinks that the Russian people have been split by hostilities forever, and now they will be reunited. The unity is still there.’

Public speakers from the Ukrainian diaspora, including Catholics, who now live in the USA and Canada, try to persuade the Western public opinion that Putin and Russia as a state are doing unambiguous and absolute evil as an imperialist, while Ukraine is defending itself, seeking freedom and independence. I am not going to argue with this set of statements on the pages of this article, as I should remind my readers of my prayer for all the fallen soldiers and civilians on both sides of the border and that I wait for the Lord to grant peace as soon as possible.

However, it would be useful to remember that the United States and Canada – the two countries in North America that have accepted many Ukrainians historically and are now close allies – were once themselves one country and one identity, practically One People under… the British Crown. It was so until a number of political, economic and ideological reasons led to the separation of a newly formed nation of Americans from their British brethren. Moreover, the very borders of the two countries are now a paleo-relic of the American War for Independence, which in its turn had the full character of a civil war. It can indeed be seen as an un-civil conflict between radical Whigs and Red Tories within the British Colonial establishment in North America: the former separated into a different nation, while the latter had to flee to Canada after the defeat. So, let us not be so hard on Vladimir Putin in this regard.

Let me retell the whole of Putin’s speech on the Ukrainian revolution of 2014 and the consequent events from an English poem while interspersing it with Putin’s direct quotes from the Tucker Carlson’s interview. (The poem will be in Italics, and Putin’s own words will be in block quotes.)

In the region of Donbass lived  brave, honest subjects, who dare to be loyal,
and have stood the brunt of every trial of hunting-shirts and rifle-guns
– the illegitimate government of the Ukrainian Revolution, the crooked politicians who are all in the wrong,

who, with blustering look and most awkward gait,
‘gainst their lawful sovereign dared to prate.

Putin: ‘Yanukovych did use neither the armed forces nor the police. Yet the armed opposition committed a coup in Kiev. What is that supposed to mean? Who do you think you are?’

Putin: ‘They launched the war in Donbas in 2014 with the use of aircraft and artillery against civilians. This is when it all started.’

For one lawful ruler, many tyrants they’ve got,
Who force young and old to their wars, to be shot,
This perjured banditti, now ruin this land,
And o’er its poor people claim lawless command…

Putin: ‘This endless mobilisation in Ukraine, the hysteria, the domestic problems, sooner or later it will result in an agreement.’

All strutting, the standard of Satan beside,
And honest names using, their black deeds to hide.
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

Also Putin from his address to the Ukrainian soldiers from 02/25 2022: ‘It looks like it will be easier for you and me to come to an agreement than with this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who settled in Kyiv and took the entire Ukrainian people hostage.’[8]

Their pasteboard dollars, prove a common curse,
They don’t chink like silver and gold in our purse;
With nothing their leaders have paid their debts off,
Their honor’s, dishonor, and justice they scoff,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

Putin: ‘I think everyone understands very well that no matter how many dollars are printed, they’re quickly dispersed all over the world. (…) But they won’t stop printing. What does the debt of $33 trillion tell us about? It is about the emission. Nevertheless, it is the main weapon used by the United States to preserve its power across the world. As soon as the political leadership decided to use the US dollar as a tool of political struggle, a blow was dealt to this American power.’

May commerce and peace again be restored,
And Ukrainians own their true sovereign lord.

Putin: ‘What is happening is, to a certain extent, an element of a civil war. Everyone in the West thinks that the Russian people have been split by hostilities forever, and now they will be reunited. The unity is still there.’

The poem which I have quoted with slight modifications comes from the pen of Capt. Smyth, who was a British loyalist. He served in Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers. Smyth wrote it in 1778 and called it ‘the Rebels’. That year, St. Petersburg was only 75 years old from the day Peter the Great founded a new capital for his newborn Empire on the Neva river to push Sweden back. That century, a Ukrainian national identity was just beginning to take its relatively modern shape in a cultural sense. Another century would have passed before a political discussion started about Ukraine’s independence and separation. But it was only five years before the British Crown recognised the US independence by signing a peace agreement in Paris. It seems that when it all finished there for you, it only started here for us. So, maybe by observing the current situation in the Anglo-Saxon world, we can foresee the Russian-Ukrainian relations in some distant future.

Since the peace treaty with the Brits, in American memory, as sealed in the Declaration of Independence, King George III of the United Kingdom has been known as a Tyrant. Whereas the Encyclopaedia Britannica[9] speaks of him as a benevolent politician, although a weak ruler of his country, which is why he was definitely not a tyrant.[10] The Guardian[11], The Telegraph[12] and the BBC[13] issued positive pieces about King George III, underlining the unfairness of accusations against the monarch, his personal qualities, contribution to the development of sciences and progress of all mankind.

The British view on the history emphasises that the Colonists had problems rather with the Parliament, not the king. So, it is implicit, but it sounds like the American Revolution was not about freedom and representation, but an utter secession that was plotted by chance out of certain political and economic motivations of Colonial beneficiaries who did not want to pay for their protection. It says that initially, the Americans were even disposed to admit the King’s personal supremacy, just not that of the Parliament,[14] which looks like some modern realm of the British Commonwealth! Like Canada! Does it not portray the Declaration of Independence and its authors as liars?…

A most recent development on that front was the co-optation of the very essence of the American revolution – Democracy – and the role America has played in the spread of human rights all over the world since World War II. It turns out, according to the British, all of this development came as a result of Thomas Jefferson’s incorporating some decrees of Edward Coke (a British parliament member) into the American Constitution, which in its own term was not a brand-new separate document, but rather a continuation of the British law, a grandson of the Magna Carta. Nor is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights an independent document, nor is it an American influence at all… but British! They even teach these theses to their children in a format of funny educational songs produced by the BBC network.[15]

Do all the fundamental contradictions and ‘insults’ provided above constitute a sufficient reason for a third Anglo-American war? No.

America and Great Britain have long been strong allies, despite their ‘imperial’ status switched and that the forms of their governments are fundamentally different. This means that both Russia and Ukraine have a historical chance that future generations will read about current events with the same idle wonder with which we here and now read articles about kings and rebels of bygone years.

South in unrest? The Reasons and Pair-Examples for Putin’s Inconsistency

It’s easy to see that Putin’s pathos is a bit self-contradictory. On the one hand, he is talking about the defence, and on the other, it is all about the attack. No matter how much he would shift the emphasis during this and many other talks, it was he who launched something that in Russia is called a ‘special military operation.’ How does he manage to do both? I shall use an example.

One of the most painful moments in American history and an imbalancing factor in this national identity is the ‘sin of Chronos’ commonly known as a Civil War: having gained independence from Great Britain and cast out the Loyalists to Canada, the Union itself invaded the South, when some states, for comparable economic reasons, started to talk about secession and act accordingly. The North won that war, but in order to save the American self-identity from collapse and fragmentation, a ‘meme’ was installed into the popular memory through ways official and unofficial alike, but primarily through the culture, that taking back the South was necessary by a moral standard… It is generally accepted that Lincoln was forced to take action if not only, then primarily because the South held slaves and treated them poorly while refusing to set them free. Although this element was, if not the tip of the iceberg, then clearly not the major part of it. Slavery and racism are also a kind of Hitler in our culture. Something approximating absolute evil, although simultaneously too rounded for historic accuracy and too specific for a metaphysical discussion.

We see that President Putin of Russia faces the same problem in his attitude towards his own ‘rebellious South.’ He repeatedly accuses the West of various faults in the manner that is akin to the list of indictments to the ‘tyrannical’ George III one reads in the Declaration of Independence (Putin has been repeating this pattern since his Munich Address of February the 10th 2007). At the same time, when regarding the invasion of Ukraine, he uses a moral argument about Nazism:

‘We haven’t achieved our aims yet because one of them is de-nazification. This means the prohibition of all kinds of neo-Nazi movements.’

‘It is necessary to stop this practice and prevent the dissemination of this concept. I say that the Ukrainians are part of the one Russian people. They say, no, we are a separate people. Okay, fine. If they consider themselves a separate people, they have the right to do so. But not on the basis of Nazism, the Nazi ideology.’

‘The president of Ukraine visited Canada. The story is well known, but being silenced in the Western countries. The Canadian Parliament introduced the man who, as the speaker of the Parliament said, fought against the Russians during the World War II. Well, who fought against the Russians during the World War II? Hitler and his accomplices. And it turned out that this man served in the SS troops, he personally killed the Russians, Poles and Jews. The US troops consisted of Ukrainian nationalists who did this dirty work. The president of Ukraine stood up with the entire Parliament of Canada and applauded this man. How can this be imagined? The President of Ukraine himself, by the way, is a Jew by nationality.’

Just as there really were problems with slavery in the South, there was cooperation between the Ukrainian intelligentsia, some Uniate clergy and nationalist circles with the Nazis (as many among the involved parties did at the time). And there were atrocities. And they have probably not been well-discussed in Ukrainian political discourse. And these facts are correspondingly difficult for both historical Souths, which, however, does not at all make their respective counterparts from the North blameless.

Maybe our history will go differently, or maybe we shall behold Vladimir Putin saying somewhere in a cemetery near Mariupol the following words of Abraham Lincoln: ‘…that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom —and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’[16]

Many would find such Putin’s words unbelievably cynical at the moment, taking into account the real cause and the closest aim all these Russian and Ukrainian troops died for. Just like many see him as a hypocrite now with that anecdote of his about ‘Russians do not surrender’ yelled by Ukrainian troops before they vanished, as Putin told Tucker Carlson. But Abraham Lincoln may have been accused of the same sin: did they really rip each other’s bellies open, Mr. President of the Union, for the sake of One Nation? A Government for People? Come on…

Only God knows the sincerity of both hearts, as we cannot but admit: it is precisely these poetic words that naturally suggest themselves, while the needed repentance can only be expected from someone who has already known forgiveness. By people and by God. Could Lincoln hope for one? Can Putin? Another thing is for sure: a complete victory in a Civil War is inevitably Pyrrhic. And it is God Who heals.

A Catholic Answer

In order to hope for the best and handle the worse, we must ourselves avoid ‘positive’ idolatry as much as ‘negative,’ but love the brothers – even those who seem to be worshipping evil and utterly blaspheming, as St. John Chrysostom teaches us in one of his best homilies:

‘And make me not this cold reply. What matters it to me? I have nothing in common with him. With the devil alone we have nothing in common, but with all men we have many things in common; for they partake of the same nature with us; they inhabit the same earth, and they are nourished with the same food; they have the same Lord; they have received the same laws, and are invited to the same blessings with ourselves. Let us not say then, that we have nothing in common with them; for this is a satanic speech; a diabolical inhumanity. Therefore let us not give utterance to such words, but exhibit such a tender care as becomes brethren!

This indeed I, for my part, engage with the strictest certainty, and pledge myself to you all, that if all you who are present will but choose to take in hand the safety of the inhabitants of this city, we shall speedily have it amended throughout. And this, even although but the least part of the city is here; the least as to multitude, but the chief part as it respects piety. Let us take in hand the safety of our brethren! One man inflamed with zeal is sufficient to reform a whole community!

But when not merely one, or two, or three, but so great a multitude are able to take on them the care of the neglected, it is in no other way but by our own supineness, and not from our want of strength, that the majority perish and fall. Is it not indeed absurd? When we happen to see a fight taking place in the forum, we go into the midst of it, and reconcile the combatants! But why do I speak of a fight? If, perchance, we see an ass fallen down, we all make haste to stretch out a hand to raise him up. Yet we neglect our perishing brethren! The blasphemer is an ass; unable to bear the burden of his anger, he has fallen. Come forward and raise him up, both by words and by deeds; and both by meekness and by vehemence; let the medicine be various. And if we thus administer our own part, and take pains for the safety of our neighbours, we shall soon become objects of desire and affection to the very persons who have the benefit of our correction; and what is more than all, we shall enjoy those good things which are laid up in store. Which God grant that we may all obtain, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom and with whom, to the Father with the Holy Ghost, be glory and power and honor, both now and always, and forever and ever. Amen.’[17]

I couldn’t have said better. East or West, Russian and Ukrainian, American and British, South and North – we are called to brotherhood in the Catholic spirit of prayer and community, which will find its way to the political realm. If we are all that Christian, our politicians will not be able to kick against the pricks for long.

Praised be Jesus Christ our only Lord and the Prince of Peace!

Photo credit.

[1] ‘Assistant Secretary of the Russian Security Council Alexey Pavlov called for the “de-Satanisation” of Ukraine’ More details on RBC:

[2] See for example what Dmitry Bykov had to say. “Putin has let the devil inside of him” URL:

[3] See, for example, CNN: ‘Putin walks away with propaganda victory after Tucker Carlson’s softball interview’, URL: ; see also NPR: ‘Tucker Carlson, the fired Fox News star, makes bid for relevance with Putin interview’, URL:

[4] The Guardian, ‘Putin says he prefers Biden to Trump and mocks Tucker Carlson’s questions,’ URL:

[5] From the official English translation provided by Tucker Carlson’s website.

[6] See in Андрей Царинный. Украинское движение : краткий исторический очерк : преимущественно по личным воспоминаниям = Украинское движеніе: краткій историческій очеркъ: преимущественно по личнымъ воспоминаніямъ / С введением князя А. М. Волконского.. — книга. — Берлин: Типография Зинабург, 1925. — 229 с URL:

[7] Ahlquist D. Lecture 23: The Irish Impressions at the The Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton. URL:

[8] Cited from a new piece: Назайкина А. ‘Путин: шайка наркоманов и неонацистов в Киеве взяла в заложники украинский народ’, URL:

[9] Watson J.S. ‘George III’ at Encyclopedia Britannica, URL:

[10] From idem: ‘George III’s reign, on its personal side, was the tragedy of a well-intentioned man who was faced with problems too great for him to solve but from which his conscience prevented any attempt at escape.’

[11] ‘Second thoughts on George III: online project could alter view of king,’ URL:
‘George III – The Genius of the Mad King review: politics, science and Weymouth.’ URL:

[12] ‘Prince Charles names King George III as his most respected monarch.’ URL:
See also the recent discussion at Quora, URL:

[13] ‘George III and History’s Poisoned Well,’ URL:

Quote: ‘The treatment of George III, by the public of his day, by politicians and by historians, is a warning of how easily malice and prejudice can, in the words of JW Croker, poison the wells of history.’

[14]From idem: ‘George III’s personal responsibility for the loss of America lies not in any assertion of his royal prerogative. Americans, rather, were disposed to admit his personal supremacy. Their quarrel was with the assertion of the sovereignty of Parliament, and George III was eventually hated in America because he insisted upon linking himself with that Parliament.’

[15] ‘Horrible Histories Song – Magna Carta 800 Years – CBBC’ on YouTube URL:

[16] From Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

[17] St. John Chrysostom, 1st Homily on the Statues, 32-33. Cited from New Advent, URL:

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